Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Failed Attempt at Using Twitter for Customer Service

Businesses everywhere are tapping into Twitter, and all of them are trying to figure out how to do it. The idea of using Twitter for customer service is really starting to catch on, and in some cases is actually working. But I recently triggered a tweet that’s a shining example of how not to use Twitter for business.

The tweet in question could be a combination of lack of forethought and someone not paying attention. That’s probably the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario: That this Twitter communication follows the company’s social media guidelines exactly.

On July 19, @shanselman tweeted this:

I don't get angry on Customer Service calls. I've never yelled. But I'm so frustrated with "Frontier Communications" I could smack someone.

I had never heard of Frontier Communications, but I thought it was an odd name for a phone company, much less an ISP (which, from some of shanselman’s other tweets that day, I think this is). Consider the American frontier — and how people communicated when we had one. So, being the smart aleck that I am, I tweeted this:

@shanselman Doesn't "Frontier Communications" refer to the telegraph? Talk about a slow internet connection!

It’s easy to see how someone could skim over this tweet and think that I was actually complaining about their Internet speed (like so many people on Twitter). But I was just trying to be funny. Like I said, I had never heard of Frontier Communications before.

Nonetheless, this tweet appeared not long after from @FrontierCorp:

@4ndymanFD I do apologize. Please contact 877-462-8188(repair ), 877-462-1105(billing)or 877-462-0488(FIOS)for assistance.

This tweet was sent out too soon, with too little consideration, to the wrong person. I was not one of the customers they needed to reach out to. (Not to mention the underutilization of the spacebar in the tweet itself.)

But imagine that I was. What does this response do? It uses Twitter to try to get me on the phone. It tries to direct my service off of Twitter, a public forum, and into a private phone call. It doesn’t show a willingness to help me find a solution to my problem; it shows an eagerness to get problems out of the public eye. Out of sight, out of mind.

This isn’t using Twitter as a customer service tool, it’s using Twitter as a half-hearted attempt to redirect customers to the response mechanisms that Frontier Communications is used to.

A better response would be to ask me, on Twitter, what my problem was. That is, after all, the first step to fixing the problem, and that would start the conversation.

Businesses: Adding a new technology to your customer service operations requires that you adjust your customer service operations to accommodate that technology. Twitter isn’t a phone call, and it isn’t e-mail. If you’re treating it like it is, you aren’t going to be successful at it.

Sorry, Frontier Communications: You get an F. You do not move on to Social Media 102.